Area civic and government leaders took part in the Crawford County Division of Children and Family Services’ fifth annual Walk to End Child Abuse in Van Buren on Wednesday.
More than 100 people turned out for the noon walk, which was part of an effort to raise awareness about the frequency of child abuse in Crawford County.
Genevie Strickland, Morgan Nick Foundation director of education, spoke during the event about how missing children often are runaways impacted by child abuse.
“Each year in the U.S. alone, over 800,000 children go missing and the majority are runaways - ‘throwaways,’ are what they’re called,” Strickland said, citing statistics from National Runaway Safeline.
About 43 percent of all runaway children say they were abused, and 80 percent of runaway girls admit to having been abused, Strickland said. About 5,000 runaways die on the streets each year, she said.
“What we’ve learned is that they’re running away from something; most often, it’s the abuse that they face,” Strickland said. “Sadly, they feel that leaving without anything, without money, without food, homeless, is better than staying in that abuse.”
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and the walk was slated as part of the Million March Against Child Abuse. Various groups participating in the walk wore blue and carried signs to show support for the efforts.
Throughout April, CCDCFS will sponsor events to call attention to the importance of preventing all forms of child maltreatment and provide education to the public.
According to the Arkansas Department of Human Services 2015 Statistical Report, there were 33,683 reported cases of child abuse and neglect in Arkansas in 2015, with 9,543 cases confirmed.
In Crawford County, there were 746 cases of child abuse reported in 2015, with 126 confirmed.
Warning signs that a child might be abused or neglected include the child being nervous around adults, aggressive toward adults or other children, inability to stay awake or concentrate, sudden changes in personality or activities, acting out sexually or showing interest in sex in an age inappropriate way and frequent or unexplained bruises or injuries.
To report suspected child abuse, call the Arkansas Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 482-5964.